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North Las Vegas motorists reminded no U-turns in school zones

There’s an obscure state law that bars drivers from making a U-turn in front of school zones — and North Las Vegas city officials want to make sure you remember it.

A raised, yellow median was installed along a stretch of Tonopah Avenue, aimed at preventing motorists from making a U-turn in front of C.P. Squires Elementary School and neighboring J.D. Smith Middle School.

“Nothing else happens unless our students make it to us safe,” said Barry Bosacker, principal at C.P. Squires Elementary. “This ensures our families have a safe way to get their students to and from us every day.”

The street was also narrowed, aimed at slowing traffic through this relatively quiet neighborhood just outside the city’s downtown area. Wire cages filled with glow-in-the-dark rocks serve as median barriers and bollards to block vehicles from skipping the curb and hitting children walking to school.

Crosswalks and dedicated bicycle lanes were also added as part of the $893,761 improvement project, funded by the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada.

Similar safety upgrades were made along Donna Street near Quannah McCall Elementary.

“Nothing is more important than the well-being of our children,” said Councilman Isaac Barron, whose Ward 1 includes all three schools.

“Unfortunately, school zones too often turn into the site of tragedy when people speed, make shortcuts and take pedestrian safety for granted,” Barron said. “Our goal and hope is to be able to continue replicating this model until we’ve upgraded every school traffic safety zone in North Las Vegas.”

Safety improvements are slated for a dozen other schools across North Las Vegas over the next three to four years, costing roughly $400,000 for each campus, said Tom Brady, a senior engineer for the city’s Public Works Department. Construction would be completed when the students are out of school during summer.

With Clark County students returning to school on Monday, law enforcement officers will step up patrols at school zones across the valley, North Las Vegas police Officer Eric Leavitt said. He also warned children to stay on the sidewalks and crosswalks.

“Some people don’t have kids and don’t realize school is starting,” Leavitt said. “We will kindly remind them.”

Multilane onramps reduce congestion

Several onramps to Interstate 15 and U.S. Highway 95 span several lanes, some of which include a designated lane for high-occupancy vehicles. Don from Las Vegas wanted to know why they all narrow to a single lane as drivers merge onto the freeway. Some of the narrowing onramps have traffic signals.

Tony Illia, a spokesman for the Nevada Department of Transportation, said those multilane onramps were created as a way to prevent traffic from backing up and spilling onto the street. The HOV onramp lanes provide preferential treatment ahead of general traffic.

“It’s unsafe for multiple vehicle lanes to merge into mainline freeway traffic at once due to timing, speed and spacing,” Illia said. “It would cause chaos, abruptly slowing traffic flows and causing crashes.”

As for those signals, Illia said that ramp meters were installed at select locations based on traffic counts, safety and alignment at freeways across the valley as a way to reduce congestion and vehicle emissions.

‘Van accessible’ is not for cars

Barbara from Las Vegas has a placard indicating a disability for her car and wanted to know whether she’s allowed to park in spaces designated as “van accessible.”

“Someone told me they were ticketed, even with a handicap placard, for parking in a space with that signage,” Barbara said. “Are law enforcement officers really only looking for vans?”

It turns out cars may not park in “van accessible” spaces, even if the driver has a placard or specialized license plates, said Trooper Jason Buratczuk of the Nevada Highway Patrol.

“Van accessible handicap parking stalls are for side-loading vans only,” Buratczuk said. “Someone who parks a standard passenger car in that stall, even with a handicap placard, could be given a citation.”

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